The Patterns of Fragmentation and Integration

Think of a student whose parents are incarcerated and who has bounced around multiple group and foster homes. He gets placed with a family member for awhile who makes sure he has a positive education experience and good physical & mental care. That caregiver falls ill and he has to move back to his hometown. His records— academic and health— do not follow him and he is put in classes that he had already passed and quickly gets disengaged and drops out. He gets into trouble and is sentenced to 18 months in juvie. 

Think of a teacher who is dedicated to creating new experiences for her students. She wants to prioritize outdoor learning but is based in New York City where there are only a few comfortable months to explore outside. Her plans are stifled by constraints and leaders and she doesn’t see a path forward. There is a culture of perfection that doesn’t support an adaptive mindset. However, she persists and shifts her lens from outside learning to outside of the box learning. She took her students to Mars by putting all clocks on Mars time, having projects for students to explore different aspects of the planet, and inviting experts to guide their space adventure.

These stories are the imperative for the Integration Design Consortium(IDC). In the first, the fragmentation of the services led to a young person to fall through the cracks. The second highlights an educator providing great educational experiences despite her environment both weather and school. In both cases, more integrated systems could combat isolation and distrust.

How might we move up the intervention points for young people struggling with their education? How might we create an ecosystem that is resilient, supportive, and brings together the many services that touch young people’s lives?


For the past year, BIF has been leading the Learning Agenda for the Integration Design Consortium—  a new approach to integrating our education system that brings together five design team to create new, innovative approaches within education. The teams— 2Revolutions, Bellwether, Education First, FSG, and The Teachers Guild— are working from the classroom to the statehouse to create a more integrated, equitable education system.

The IDC exists to (1) build greater understanding of the approaches and conditions that enable integration in the education sector (2) codify stories, tools, and resources to amplify the impact of the participating design teams and the education field as a whole, and (3) catalyze interest in the issue of fragmentation more broadly. Ultimately, we seek to create compelling models that employ an integrated approach — as opposed to fragmented point-solutions. Greater integration is needed if we are to create transformational, equitable change in the field of education.

But what does fragmentation actually look like? What does integration feel like? And how might we better understand the conditions that must be put in place for us to move towards further integration?

At the second convening of the IDC, we set out to identify the key levers to integration based on the teams’ project experiences. These real-world examples provided a break down of the aspects that are most vital to creating a poor or an excellent state of integration. These dimensions became a foundation for our conversations and a way to observe how systems that project teams are working on are changing over time, ideally towards further integration.

Check out this video representation of our learnings and connect with us on Twitter @TheBIF to let us know what fragmentation looks like in your context. For more on the IDC, visit our site at

The first iteration of these findings can be found in this document: Patterns Of Fragmentation And Integration. 

What’s Business Models Got to Do With It?

At most education events, other attendees will see our nametags and say ‘Business Innovation Factory? What’s up with that?!’ There are examples of new and exciting business models all around us that are bringing us enhanced experiences and increased value—from TV streaming to writing to senators from your phone. However, our education field has not seen as many transformational models or practices at the scale and impact that students desperately need.

There are major issues facing our K-12 education landscape— lack of student engagement, a teaching force that doesn’t reflect the diversity of the students, and fragmented policies and practices that make meaningful change difficult to achieve. On a systemic level, we have a lot of work to do to create a multitude of new approaches needed for a robust 21st-century education ecosystem. We need a new way of addressing education in the US — from cradle to lifelong learning. 

At the Business Innovation Factory, we answer that call to action by creating the conditions for the research and design of next practices and new business models. In education, we help leaders create new business models that tackle complex, systemic issues through human-centered design and rapid prototyping. BIF’s Student Experience Lab starts from the perspective of teachers and students and uses those insights and partnerships to create conceptual designs and prototypes that we can test in the real world.

Last month BIF’s Cheif Market Maker Eli MacLaren and Student Experience Lab Manager Jessica Brown sat down with the team at New Profit’s Reimagine Learning team for their monthly ‘Voices from the Field’ webinar series.

In this webinar we:

  1. Unpacked and explored the imperative for business model innovation
  2. Shared a proven design methodology to create business models capable of scale
  3. Took a deep dive into a case study that shows our methodology in action
  4. Shared the conditions leaders have created to amplify their innovation agendas

Check it out below!


Join us in transforming education.

BIF Welcomes the Alliance for Innovation & Transformation as its Newest Member

Providence, RI (April 23, 2018) —  The Business Innovation Factory (BIF) is pleased to welcome our newest Member, the Alliance for Innovation & Transformation (AFIT), a learning network of 50 community colleges and higher ed organizations committed to transforming student experience and outcomes.

AFIT’s mission is to lead systemic change in higher education by providing learning, development, and networking opportunities focused on customer-driven value. AFIT and its members recognize the imperative to not just improve incrementally but to transform the higher education experience.  

“AFIT is a great addition to our innovation community,” said BIF Founder and Chief Catalyst, Saul Kaplan. “Community college is a lynchpin for needed transformational change in our national higher education system. It is the perfect bridge for so many between K-12, higher ed, and the workplace. We’re excited for this opportunity to engage AFIT members to help make transforming higher ed safer and easier to manage.”  

This year’s AFIT strategic theme is business model innovation and BIF has been selected as the Lead Learning Partner for the Annual AFIT Summer Institute planned for this August in Kansas City. AFIT members attending the Summer Institute will embark on an innovation journey to imagine, design, prototype and test entirely new business models and next practices to transform student experience and outcomes and to create sustainable futures for their higher ed institutions.

At the AFIT Summer Institute, BIF will guide over 250 participants through our Business Model Design Process giving them tangible tools and skills to take back home on their campuses to explore and test next practices and transformational new business models. The teams will also explore the conditions necessary for their innovation strategies to be successful at scale. In AFIT’s own words, no longer will “‘take no action’ or ‘move forward with incremental change’ mindsets sustain operations; innovation and organizational transformation must become a priority.”

We have already started working on a project with six AFIT community colleges that signed up and dedicated the time and expertise of their presidents and leadership teams to become “early adopters” of BIF’s Business Model Design Process. These community colleges are being guided by BIF’s Methodology to prototype and test next practices and new business models relevant to their own context. Each team is adopting a student experience lens as a foundation for design to help them reimagine how their community college might transform how they create, deliver, and capture value.

Here at BIF, our Student Experience Lab (SXL), is focused on the imperative for business model innovation in education, from pre-K to higher ed to workforce development. Our national higher ed system was designed for a different era and hasn’t innovated its business model fast enough, leaving a growing number of students behind.

As BIF Members, AFIT will access our network of institutional business model innovators in education, health care, and public services to take advantage of opportunities to connect to a steady flow of business model design ideas, practices, and tools.

We’re honored to welcome AFIT as a BIF Member and to catalyze transformational change for higher ed institutions in its learning network. We look forward to sharing what we learn with the broader BIF community.  

Make sure to follow along on Twitter (@BIFsxl) for updates on our collaboration! And if becoming a BIF Member sounds intriguing, find more information here. We’d love to talk.

Start Your BIF Membership Today

The Business Model Imperative in Education

(Antioch College; BIF Student Experience Lab(SXL) project partner)

One of the most difficult experiences for those in education is to understand challenges within our system but have no method for creating meaningful, transformative change. Issues persist and frustrate individuals at every level — from classroom to district to national. We have circled around the same issues for decades, at times designing useful innovations to incrementally improve them. However, on a systemic level, we have a lot of work to do to create a multitude of new approaches needed for a robust 21st-century education ecosystem.

At present we have a few major problems. First, we have engagement issues — over 40% of students are chronically bored or disengaged from school. A Gallup poll found that from kindergarten to 12th-grade engagement drops every year bottoming out in the 11th grade. The stories for teachers look eerily similar, 57% report feeling disengaged and these feelings increase the longer educators have been in the field. A large predictor of student success is engagement in the student experience and teacher effectiveness. However, both students and teachers do not see the value in what they are doing, making it almost impossible for deep, meaningful learning to happen.

Second, we have an equity problem — students are receiving different educational experiences based on their region, economic status, and race. Data from Stanford’s Center for Educational Policy Analysis point to massive achievement gaps: test scores for Black students are on average two grade levels lower than white students and Latino students are one and a half grade levels lower. In addition to academics, there are wide disparities in suspension rates, a lack of culturally responsive teaching and pedagogy, decreasing levels of funding going to K-12, and diminishing numbers of teachers of color — who leave the field 24% more often than their white counterparts. We need a system that looks beyond equality(giving everyone the same thing) and moves toward giving every student and teacher what they need for growth, agency, and success.

Lastly (at least for this post) we have a sustainability problem. Teacher credentials aren’t correlating to the capabilities we are expecting from them in the classroom. The cost of higher education is outweighing its benefits and students are forced to pay while in school or take on massive amounts of debt which many can’t sustain with their income — about 3,000 borrowers default daily. For this reason, and because real-world experience has become increasingly more valuable, many students are opting out of college. Some business executives suggest that college degrees are worthless, while others like Peter Thiel even offered to pay students not to go at all. Similar to K-12, many colleges are not offering experiences that are engaging and relevant for students or that are preparing them for their next stage of life. Innovation leader Clay Christensen has predicted that by 2020 half of higher education institutions in the US will go bankrupt.

We have a system that isn’t relevant or meaningful to students. There is an experience gap that goes deeper than academic instruction — most students don’t leave high school or college prepared for life, future education, career, or civic engagement. This is unacceptable.

Looking at all of these issues without solutions has driven many to seek point solutions or tweak what already exists. However, these issues point to a greater need — business model innovation within education. We need a new way of addressing education in the US — from early learning to higher learning. Amidst the sea of issues and frustration, leaders often don’t know how to explore and test new models.

Business model exploration is the new way. To make this easier BIF has introduced a proven methodology to help leaders explore and test next practices and new business models.

Methodology DL

Our methodology makes transformation attainable, actionable, and most importantly user-centered. It serves as a guide that allows us to:


SHIFT our perspective using human-centered research and design to identify the problems to solve.

How might we bring the experiences of young men of color to life in a way that makes their voice central to our conversation about transforming the education system to improve their college experience and completion rates?

(Students at SXL Design Studio)

Create an innovative CONCEPTUAL DESIGN. We co-design with leaders, educators, & students to create something that is relevant & to teach them the process of iterative design.

How might we reinvent a 165-year-old college to be as agile as a startup?



PROTOTYPE & TEST minimally viable business models. Before we launch entirely new programs we create prototypes that mirror aspects of the final design to make sure they are valuable to end users.

How might we co-design a design thinking platform that allows teachers to creatively solve problems that arise in their classroom or school?



COMMERCIALIZE & SCALE to spread the impact of the model and crowdsource critiques. We take (or create a plan to take) the final design into the world and strategize plans for scale.

How might we highlight, spread, and create ongoing conversation around educator-created hacks within the classroom?



(Student at SXL Design Studio)


Our methodology is a tool to move from frustration and tweaks to creation of next practices and new business models. Next practices answer the question ‘How might we deliver value to students and educators in a new, more powerful, and purpose-driven way?’ We ask a similar question in our Teachers for Equity fellowship which positions communities of practice as a catalyst for more equitable outcomes for students. Next practices improve the way that current business models work or lead to new business models.

Our work with Southern New Hampshire University highlights the formation of a new business model in which students are credentialed according to how they demonstrate the knowledge and capabilities required to meet an established skill set, rather than traditional course completion. New business models combine next practices together to create, deliver, and capture value for everyone involved in an institution — from students to administrators. In this case, SNHU was able to stand up the first competency-based Associate’s degree program to be approved by the US Dept. of Education.

(SXL Teachers For Equity Fellows)

By following this methodology, we break the cycle of committees whose ideas don’t make it off the whiteboard, policies that are out of touch with practitioner needs, and frustrations of institutional leaders, students, and educators. With it, we plan to transform business models and fundamentally shift how the education system works. Most importantly, as the Student Experience Lab, we are dedicated to using it to dramatically change student outcomes and create opportunities for students to thrive.

Part of this effort is creating a community of people who will drive towards transformation with us. If this excites you, let’s figure out how we can use our methodology and team of designers to create a next practice or new model that will take your work to new heights. Email  to connect.

Methodology DL